Application of globally available, coarse resolution digital elevation models for delineating valley bottom segments of varying length across a catchment

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

The worldwide availability of digital elevation models (DEMs) has enabled rapid (semi-)automated mapping of earth surface landforms. In this paper, we first present an approach for delineating valley bottom extent across a large catchment using only publicly available, coarse-resolution DEM input. We assess the sensitivity of our results to variable DEM resolution and find that coarse-resolution datasets (90 m resolution) provide superior results. We also find that LiDAR-derived DEMs produce more realistic results than satellite-derived DEMs across the full range of topographic settings tested. Satellite-derived DEMs perform more effectively in moderate topographic settings, but fail to capture the subtleties of valley bottom extent in mild gradient, low-lying topography and in narrow headwater reaches. Second, we present a semi-automated technique within ArcGIS for delineating valley bottom segments using DEM-derived network scale metrics of valley bottom width and slope. We use an unsupervised machine-learning technique based on the k-means clustering algorithm to solve a conundrum in GIS-based geomorphic analysis of rivers: the delineation of valley bottom segments of variable length. The delineation of valley bottom segments provides a coarse-scale entry point into automated geomorphic analysis and characterization of river systems.

Original languageEnglish
Number of pages16
JournalEarth Surface Processes and Landforms
DOIs
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 17 Jun 2020

Keywords

  • AW3D
  • SRTM
  • automation
  • remote sensing
  • river management
  • valley extraction

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